Swing It, Sunny (paperback)
by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
This is the second book about Sunny that the Holms (brother/sister duo) have written. In Sunny-Side Up, Sunny went to Florida to stay with her grandpa while her parents figured out what to do with her older brother Dale and his drug problem. In Swing It, Sunny, Dale is at a military school, angry that he has lost his freedom. Sunny is home and navigating middle school. She enjoys a lot of tv with her friend, learns to swing a flag from a new neighbor, and dresses up like a nurse for Halloween (although she wanted to be a swamp thing). The biggest concern for Sunny is her brother. She loves him and misses him, but he is not himself.
What I liked about this book is that it is great for a students who has a relative with a drug or alcohol problem. It shows that there are pressures for the entire family, not just the parents, when there is a family member who is sick. Her dad did a good job of trying to explain that Dale was not himself, but Sunny had to experience the pain for herself.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it didn’t have a strong plot with a problem and solution that would be a good model for my lower readers. It had a lot of internal conflict, which made it a great story, but harder for my struggling readers to understand.
Book 5 of 40
Invisible Emmie (paperback)
by Terri Libenson
AR Level 3.8, 2 points
Invisible Emmie is for the quiet, shy girls who are unsure of themselves and need to know there is hope for them. Emmie is basically an only child since her older siblings are adults, and she lives with very busy parents. She loves drawing, has a best friend, and a huge crush on a boy named Tyler Ross. She and her best friend write fake songs about their crushes, and her letter gets out, causing extreme embarrassment. Meanwhile, there is a perfect girl named Katie who is pretty, smart, confident, and also likes Tyler Ross. Emmie’s embarrassing situation causes her a lot of stress, but also causes her to grow as a person.
What I liked about this book was the humor that Libenson uses in both her drawings and her uncomfortable situations. Some of the humor is subtle, so an intelligent reader will have to think about the drawings and captions to understand, but it will give the reader a chuckle.
What I didn’t like about this book was the ending. It bugged me. I understand the meaning, but I think that 1) it will confuse younger readers, and 2) it didn’t make a lot of sense. Whose imaginary friend gets jealous???
Book 13 of summer 2017!
Real Friends (paperback)
by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
AR Level (no quiz yet)
Real Friends made my heart hurt. It hit way, way, way too close to home for me. Not the home I live in today, but the one from when I was in elementary school. This is the story of Shannon, a girl with a vivid imagination who enjoyed writing. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t always do everything right in her friendships nor with her siblings, but she was gravely mistreated by the girls in the popular group and misunderstood/ignored by her mother. Shannon had to find out the hard way that being in the popular group isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially with mean girls who often dress better and compete for attention. Shannon finally realizes who she is and she stands up for herself, but not before suffering a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety, basically ruining her elementary school experience.
What I liked about this book is that students can either relate to Shannon’s experience (like myself), or they can see how damaging being in the popular group can be for someone on the outskirts. It was really hard to read this, because it was such an emotional story. I think it is really important for girls to read this book, because it seems like someone is either out with the in crowd, or the in crowd itself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it did hurt to read it. I didn’t want Shannon to be abused by her “friends” at school or her sister at home, but it is her experience (the author’s), and important to read.
Book 5 of summer 2017!
MARCH: Book One (paperback)
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
AR Level 4.6, 1 point
Book One of the MARCH trilogy introduces us to John Lewis’s upbringing and entrance into the Civil Rights Movement. Rep. Lewis was raised in the South on a farm. He preached to the chickens while fighting for the chance to attend school and gain an education. Others saw something in him and gave him the chance to use his skill and passion to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and join the movement. In this book, he stages peaceful sit-ins so African Americans could eat at food counters.
What I like about this book is it gives details on something I know bits and pieces about. It is a graphic novel, and non-fiction, which is unusual. It is a great way to retell history in a way that is not exactly entertaining, but engaging. I want to make sure all of my students read this book so they learn about a part of history that is important, but not taught in detail.
What I didn’t like about this book isn’t something that can be helped. Because of the context, there is a lot of language in this book. I know the word nigger is one that is used in must my students listen to and their parents don’t blink an eye, but it different when I am providing a book that includes it. It is important for them to see how this word was used and why it isn’t to be taken lightly. I just worry that not everyone will see that, and I’ll have to take this valuable piece of literature out of my library.
Book 2 of Summer 2017!
Anya’s Ghost (paperback)
by Vera Brosgol
AR Level 2.3, 1 point
Anya’s Ghost is about a girl named Anya who is uncomfortable with herself. She does not look like everyone else (tall, thin, pretty) and she has an embarrassing Russian mother who doesn’t understand Anya. Anya has been smoking and skipping class, and she falls into a hole where she meets a ghost. The ghost follows her home when Anya accidentally picks up one of the bones, and it seems like the ghost helps Anya, until Anya realizes she has to help herself.
What I liked about this book was the message- to like yourself for who you are. This is a good message for my tweens, and although they may not hear it from a book, I think as many ways we can expose them to that message, the better. My students can all articulate it, but they don’t always FEEL it.
What I didn’t like was that there was some language that could be inappropriate for 11 and 12 year olds, including the word whore. There was also smoking and drinking. I am not taking it out of my library, so I hope parents are okay with taking the bad with the good!
Book 36 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Snow White (hardcover)
by Matt Phelan
no AR quiz yet
In this fractured fairy tale told in a graphic novel format, Snow White takes place during the 1920’s and 30’s. Her father is in the stock market and her step mother is an actress who insists Snow go to boarding school. When her father dies, Snow’s step mother says she has to stay in the guest room, and then sends a man to kill her. Snow escapes and meets a group of 7 boys, who take her to a department store window when her step mother gives her a poison apple. Detective Prince kisses her and she awakens. I really liked this book.
What I liked most was the illustrations. This has to be one of the prettiest books I’ve seen in awhile. The illustrations are beautiful, and I would hang them on my wall if I could frame them. I want to study the drawings so I can find something new each time I look at them. The book truly is a work of art.
What I didn’t like about the book was that it ended. I really enjoyed it!
Book 35 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
BABYMOUSE: Our Hero! (hardcover)
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
AR Level 2, 0.5 points
I enjoy anything by Jennifer L. Holm, and Babymouse doesn’t disappoint. It is a lower reading level, and geared towards much younger students. Our Hero! follows Babymouse on her quest to not die at dodgeball.
What I liked about this book was that my first grader is reading it! She has just started reading the series, and I read the books along with her so I can ask questions when she’s done with the book. I want her to love reading, and the Babymouse series is a great way to start.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it can be hard to follow, because Babymouse is a dreamer with a vivid imagination, and she was often daydreaming, which can be tough for a new reader.
Book 22 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)